Manchester United host Stoke City at Old Trafford on Saturday in a game that is important for both teams. United have only won one of their last four, whilst Stoke are without a win in their last five in the Premier League. For David Moyes in particular the game is important as he is without a home win in his last two league games and yet to register back to back wins in his time as manager. Stoke have been slowly plodding along this season, but they find themselves only a point above the relegation zone. If there was any time to play Manchester United at Old Trafford it would be now, so Mark Hughes’ men will have a glimmer of hope going into this game.
Manchester United head into the game hoping that striker Robin Van Persie will recover from a knock that made him miss United’s midweek European fixture. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck could all return to the squad. Darren Fletcher is United’s only long term absentee, and continues to be out indefinitely. Marouane Fellaini could return to the starting eleven after being rested in midweek.
Stoke only have two injury concerns, and both will face late fitness tests. Captain Ryan Shawcross, to see if he has recovered from illness and also utility man Geoff Cameron.
United have never lost against Stoke in the Premier League. They have won nine of their ten meetings, drawing once. They have won all five of their meetings at Old Trafford only conceding three. Stoke have only managed five goals in their ten games against United and have conceded twenty-five. Stoke have only scored four goals this season and all four were scored by different players. The Potters have also not scored in their last three games. Similarly, Manchester United have only had four goal scorers but have managed to score eleven goals. Wayne Rooney has scored Premier League goals for United but is yet to score from open play as all three have come from free-kicks.
Wayne Rooney has been in inspired form for club and country this season. Many have attributed this to the fitness that he has displayed so far this season. Rooney has scored three goals this season with a shot accuracy of 59%, as well as contributing two assists. It is Rooney’s attitude that has been most impressive after his transfer rumour riddled summer. He has been the one visible bright light for United this season other than the emergence of Adnan Januzaj. Now into his tenth season with the club, Rooney knows what is expected of him and his contribution will go a long to Manchester United getting themselves out of this rut.
The man tasked with marshalling Wayne is likely to be Frenchman Steven N’Zonzi. The defensive midfielder has been an ever present in Mark Hughes’ side this season, playing every minute of their Premier League campaign. N’Zonzi has a tackle success rate of 80% and has made twenty-nine tackles for the Potters this season. He also has a pass completion rate of 89%, showing that he is adept at keeping possession for his team. At 6ft 4 inches, N’Zonzi is also very important when it comes to set pieces due to his height. If Stoke are to steal a result, a goal from a set piece could be the best way for them to do it.
With United’s shaky early season form, it is easier to imagine Stoke City coming away with a result on Saturday. Despite this, Stoke have been on a bad run themselves and go into the game also in bad form. United’s woes at home in recent games have been against an improving West Brom and a very well organised Southampton. For that reason, it is hard to see anything else but a United win. A reaction to their recent form could see a large score line in their favour. A 3-0 United win is my prediction for this one.